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advantages. he's debated in the general election stage before. romney has the advantage of having simply debated more over the last year. so i think it's kind of an even stage there, but the situation is not comparable to reagan versus carter. the economic metrics when carter was running for re- election were extremely negative, much more negative than they are today, and just this last week, polls show that the pub has more confidence in the president's economic views and vision and program than romney. so he has lost the one advantage that he once had. secondly, there were a lot of independent, undecided voters in 1980 who had lost faith in carter and were just waiting to see if they could feel confidence in his challenger. there are so few independent voters. this is an election that's about mobilizing the bases. so going after the independent voter is not a big surprise. having said all that in the memo put out by david axelrod -- >> who is who? >> he's the campaign guru on the obama side. >> right. >> he points out that five of the last six challengers won the first debate. i think
a great communicator like franklin roosevelt knew the risk of debating. he was a heavy favorite to win re-election in 1940, so when republican wendell wilke demanded a debate, f.d.r. ignored him. he knew just appearing on the same stage with the president enhanced the stature of any challenger. >> i think that we both just just stand here >> reporter: it's hard to know where we'd be today if nixon in 1960 had followed roosevelt's lead. but once burned, nixon never debated again. nor did lyndon johnson who had preceded him to the white house. so there were no debates in 1964, '68 or '72. >> announcer: this is the cbs news special report. >> schieffer: only after his poll numbers dropped did gerald ford agree to debate challenger jimmy carter in 1976. >> i interviewed ford about this. i said why did you agree to the debate? he said, "it was my only hope." he was down and out because of having pardoned nixon. that's why he was so far down. he said, "if i could get jimmy carter to debate me, i might have a chance." >> schieffer: yet ford ended up hurting his chances with this statement. >> there is no
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